By JACK BELICH
Of The Times Staff
The Miss Pinellas is coming home.
Arthur Velasco of Redington Shores, a co-owner of the vessel yesterday said the U.S. Coast Guard in Key West had released the boat and “we’ll be heading back to St. Petersburg soon.”
Cmdr. C. W. Wahl, officer-in-charge of the Coast Guard base in Key West said he had received verbal orders from his superiors in Miami to release the boat.
“Mr. Velasco has custody of the Miss Pinellas and he has taken it to the Britt Boat Works in Key West for repairs,” Whal said.
VELASCO, OF 101 180th Ave., E., Redington Shores, along with Joseph Scarfone, 5218 Tenth Ave. S., Gulfport, bought the party fishing boat and former Bee Line ferry Oct. 26 for use as a transport vessel on the Amazon River in South America.
The 135-foot boat was found disabled by a Coast Guard boat about 30 miles west of Cuba on Oct. 29. The boat was seized by the Marine Inspection Division of the Coast Guard when it was discovered the Miss Pinellas was being operated in violation of her certificate of inspection.
U.S. Customs officials in Key West said the boat was Cuba bound when it developed engine trouble and called for assistance. Scarfone denied any knowledge of a trip to Cuba and said the Miss Pinellas was “out for a test run.”
The Dade County state attorney’s office is reported still investigating several complaints filed by Cuban exiles in Miami seeking refunds of money paid to operators of the Miss Pinellas for a trip to Cuba to return relatives.
“Yesterday Velasco said the boat’s engine has been repaired and we’re having some additional work done now and we hope to have the boat back in St. Petersburg Sunday or Monday.”
When asked whether he still planned to use the boat in South America, Velasco said, “I’ll tell you after we get back to St. Petersburg.”
[ St. Petersburg Times – November 25, 1965 p. 3B
NOTE: This is the most important revelation regarding the PINELLAS (WILMINGTON) that I have come across in quite some time. I wasn’t sure that I would ever uncover the final resting place of the WILMINGTON/MISS PINELLAS. The following year Velasco was involved in a shooting. Not sure where this will end up.Capt. Joe Winters (his wife, Alberta, and daughter, Beverly, married to Frank Cueto) died in early 1970. He was owner of the MISS PINELLAS II and wanted it to stay in the family. Frank and Beverly “Winters” Cueto kept the boat and ran fishing excursions via TAMPA BAY EXCURSIONS, INC. Capt. Bud Weil had been captain of the MISS PINELLAS & MISS PINELLAS II.